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Colorado Olympian severs spinal cord in motor vehicle accident

Colorado native and Olympic swimmer, Amy Van Dyken, made history at the 1996 Olympic Games when she won four gold medals. Four years later, she added two more gold medals to her collection. While known for her strong Olympian body, the 41-year-old was recently involved in a serious accident that resulted in her suffering a severe spinal cord injury.

The accident occurred when Van Dyken was riding on an ATV and hit a curb. As the ATV and Van Dyken flew several feet down an embankment, her spinal cord was completely severed. The former Olympian's husband came to her rescue until first responders arrived and ushered her via helicopter to the hospital.

Doctors determined that Van Dyken's spinal cord was severed at the T11 vertebra which is located in the middle of the spine. Upon arriving at the hospital, doctors performed emergency surgery to prevent any additional injury and damage. While it appears as though the former Olympian will live, her long-term prognosis is uncertain.

In many cases, particularly when a spinal cord injury results in the cord being completely severed, an individual may suffer paralysis. An individual's spinal cord is composed of a series of nerve bands which enable an individual to control, move and feel different parts of the body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 40 percent of spinal injuries result from motor vehicle accidents. An injury to the spinal column can be devastating and result in an individual suffering numbness, loss of control in movements, paralysis and death.

In some cases, individuals who have either been directly impacted or had a loved one impacted by a spinal cord injury may choose to take legal action. In cases where this type of debilitating injury was the result of another driver's negligence, a personal injury lawsuit can help recover compensation related to medical expenses, injuries and future long-term care needs.

Source: The Denver Post, "Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, 6-time Olympic gold medalist, severs spinal cord in ATV crash," Kieran Nicholson, June 9, 2014 May Clinic, "Spinal cord injury," 2014  

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